Whenever a friend asks me for my shortlist of favorite horror movies, I always seem to struggle. However, I never have any issues in naming my all-time favorite. John Carpenter’s seminal horror masterpiece, Halloween, is a go-to favorite for many horror fans, and there’s plenty of reasons why. The film solidified and perfected the slasher genre using the blueprints set out by films like Psycho (1960) and Black Christmas (1974).
Halloween features some of the most groundbreaking, ahead-of-its-time cinematography, unparalleled directing, and the most iconic horror score of all time. All of these elements come together in a beautiful concoction of terror, and as a wide-eyed eight-year-old watching it for the first time in the comfort of my cozy suburban home, my life would be forever changed. You know a work of art has spoken to you when you can’t seem to escape it. After seeing Halloween, my entire perception of what a film was or could be was upended.
The POV camera shots, the moonlit pallor of the atmosphere, and a strong lead performance from Jamie Lee Curtis (Prom Night 1980) all make the film simply unforgettable. Then, there’s Michael Myers… that haunting, emotionless, pale face. Michael was, undoubtedly, my boogeyman growing up, and just the sight of that mask could send chills down my spine. John Carpenter and Debra Hill created the ultimate horror icon in Michael using small but significant touches, from his mysterious backstory to the psychology behind why he walks rather than runs after victims… because he’s that confident he’ll catch them.
Beyond the visual elements, Halloween‘s score redefined what a film composition could be for me. I had never noticed a film’s music more than when I watched Halloween. At one point, I was more afraid of the theme music than I was of Michael himself. For a very long time, I thought that I hated horror movies because this one film had traumatized me so much in my early years. It wasn’t until I was at college, studying film, that I had a profound realization: if I truly hated this movie, then why did it haunt me in the way it did? I realized there must be something to that sentiment, and so I popped in a DVD copy of the movie and watched it as an adult. What do you know… the notorious theme music started up, and I smiled.